By Angel Verdejo

Harker Heights Herald

BELTON - Brenda Gomez is a winner.

And as of Monday evening, the 25-year head coach will look to take Belton to the same heights as her previous stops.

Gomez, who led Robinson to the Class 3A state championship two years ago, was approved by the Belton school board at its monthly meeting to take over the Lady Tigers.

"I'm hoping I can take it to a level that Belton's capable of being at," Gomez said by phone Monday because she didn't attend the board meeting. "I have heard nothing but good things about Belton. With three junior highs feeding that one school, that should be a gold mine."

Gomez, 51, comes to Belton after four seasons at Robinson. Last season, the Lady Rockets went 24-5 but lost to Madisonville in the first round of the playoffs. They reached the region quarterfinals in 2010 and region semifinals in 2008. Her 2009 Lady Rockets finished 34-5, beating Argyle, 49-33, for the state title.

"I think we got a really good one," Belton athletic director Rodney Southern said. "She brings a ton of experience, but the thing I like - she bring a lot of energy. I was really pleased when we posted (the job opening) and the type of applicants, and then the quality of applicants.

"You're going to get numbers a lot of times for a 5A head job, but the quality of these applicants is the best that I've seen in a long time."

McFarland-Lee hired

Also being confirmed Monday was new Salado head volleyball coach Rachel McFarland-Lee at the Salado ISD board meeting. McFarland-Lee, who comes after 10 years as both an assistant and head coach at 5A Converse Judson, replaces former coach Bree Holz-Gonzales, who took the same position at Temple in April.

'The right fit'

"To be honest, I was really looking for the right fit - the right community, the right school district," McFarland-Lee said last week. "I was looking for a school that had good parents and good community involvement, good kids and a program that is doing well."

Gomez takes over for Randy Bell, who stepped down after the 2010-11 season to be more involved with his 24-year-old son, Tye, who suffers from Friedreich's Ataxia, an inherited disease that damages the nervous system.

The Lady Tigers struggled in Bell's final season, going 11-21 overall and 1-13 in District 12-5A.

Belton has not had a winning record or made the playoffs since 2004 when the Lady Tigers went 18-12. They finished third in 13-5A but lost to Round Rock Westwood in the bi-district playoff round.

Since then, the program is just 58-131.

"We owe him a great deal of gratitude with what he's done with our kids," Belton school board president Randy Pittenger said of Bell. "We're excited to see what Ms. Gomez brings us."

Before Robinson, Gomez coached 21 seasons in Portales, N.M. She led the Portales Lady Rams to four state championships from 2001 to 2006, and played in the title game every year.

In 25 years, Gomez has led her teams to 21 district championships, 10 state tournament appearances and six state titles. She was 17-3A coach of the year in 2008 at Robinson and 19-3A coach of the year the next season.

"I was in a great situation at Robinson," Gomez said. "But because it was this close and it was a 5A situation where those don't come around very often, and the fact that Belton believes that I can do the job - that's where I need to be."

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